July 2008

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Good marketers always have one eye toward the future. Cartier is doing just that with its advertising presence on MySpace.  Do you think they are going “all ROI” with this effort – calculating the advertising to sales ratio?  Nuh uh. They’re planting brands seeds for the future. The best thing about teenagers is they turn into young adults and if the advertising and promotion is handled properly, the kids and young adults on MySpace will become fans and predisposed toward Cartier. When they have some jing, they will buy.     

 
While at McCann-Erickson a few years ago I researched old documents and found something written in the 50s by a staff researcher. The language of the day referred to this forward thinking communication as creating “Relative Sales Conviction.”   
 
Cartier is thinking ahead. But they must use their heads and stay away from creating some goofy viral “send the love” game so they will be taken seriously. They should think about the behaviors kids exhibit at a young age that suggest future success and place ads on those kinds of pages. Behaviors that index high for future earnings are where Cartier wants to be in social media. Peace!
 
 

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I’m no shark but I smell blood in the water for Dell Inc.  Michael Dell is a leader, not a follower. When he follows he is average and makes mistakes. The Wall Street Journal reported today about Dell’s second foray into the digital music player business and the news is anything but heartening. The business ideas are not well formed, plus Dell is playing the role of challenger brand. Here are some of the alarming quotes from the article:
 
“The executives said the device has gotten a favorable reception from testers.” (Favorable?)
 
The device will connect to a new Dell music and download service which “Dell expects to launch this summer.” (Expects?)
 
“Pricing for the new service hasn’t been determined.”
 
And here’s a good one, “Mr. Tatelman (VP consumer sales) declined to detail how Dell expects the strategy to generate profit.”  “…he is still discussing with Dell whether profits would come mainly from the subscription service of from the device tied to it.” (Discussing?)
 
I could go on, but you get the idea. The Dell PR person should be spanked. Mr. Dell should have been spanked 9 months ago. Dell has lost its way once and for all.  Mr. Dell you are brilliant but you are not Steve Jobs. Peace!
 

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The concept of fast-fashion is really hot right now. Stores such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21 change their merch and styles with speed and grace. And it keep young buyers coming back. These retailers want to have fresh new looks on the shelves as soon as possible, so while mature retailers like The Gap slog predictably along, fast-fashion stores, typically from Europe and Asia, are flipping styles and generating traffic.  As much as kids today want to fit in, there is still an undeniable need for them to be seen as “out front.”  Certainly, for those Alpha males and females. Fashion is the one area where kids and young adults are willing to stretch their wings.
 
Gen Y is getting pretty sophisticated. They are an ADD demographic. Their video games age quickly, they don’t buy CDs because they move on after a 30 song plays, and even Facebook has been known to burn some kids out. 

It’s all about the fresh baby! (“Baby” isn’t fresh, is it? Yeah, I thought so.)

 

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It was reported in today’s WSJ that Dr. Pepper is launching a $35 million ad campaign telling consumers to drink Dr. Pepper more slowly. Only then, according to a market research company that uncovered this little gem, will one really experience the 23 flavors that blend together to create the distinctive taste. Did someone say cherry?
 
Deutsch, the Dr. Pepper agency, admits the idea is a little far-fetched and, so, has surrounded the “drink slowly” idea with two fake doctor spokespeople: Dr. J. (Julius Irving) and Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer of the sitcom Frasier.) 
 
Soda experts quoted in the article agree the advertising needs to emphasize taste attributes and I agree. Here’s the problem (and I reserved the right to correct myself after I see the ads,) the core taste attribute is the 23 flavors. The advertising is about drinking slowly in order to taste those flavors. If the 23 flavors get lost, the core value is lost and the idea ends up being the drinking process. And with fake doctors as spokespeople, I fear the real idea will be buried even further.
 
The brief is probably something like “savor the 23 flavors” but with emphasis on the savor and not the flavor, Dr. Pepper and Deutsch will have misfired.
 

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I rant like a broken CD about the importance of a powerful branding idea to drive business. Nowhere are the positive effects of an “idea” more evident than at Southwest Airlines. Southwest’s suit strategy is “be the lowest cost provider of airline travel in the U.S.” (The “world” should be in their future.) If every fiber of its corporate being is put into reducing costs, today and in the future, the company has a mission…an idea. 
 
But as Carmine Gallo (www.carminegallo.com) would ask: What’s in it for the consumer? The answer is “savings,” but that’s not very message-sexy. So the creative solution to low-cost carrier is “freedom.” You are now free to move about the country. Brilliant idea. Brilliant translation of the idea into creative. Brilliant mnemonic. You can’t say those words without hearing the voiceover.
 
Why is Southwest the only airline to announce a quarterly profit? Its fuel hedge program. Management thought ahead. (Ford, GM, you listening?) Southwest has an idea. When you have an idea, you have focus. When you have focus you can fend off the opposite. Peace!
 

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Google gives us the ability to search the Internet for most anything, but primarily it searches for tagged instances of words. We don’t yet have a public search tool for the utterances of the masses though — not unless you count Homeland Security recording certain words flowing over cell towers, telephone and VOIP (voice over internet protocol) switches.
 
But if we did have an Air Google, the ability to search and count the words used in everyday conversation, I think the words that would come in first and second are “like” and “gas.”  The kids say like a lot — sometimes 3 and 4 times per sentence – and everyone is talking about the price of gas.
 
Hmmm. Air Google. I give it 30 years. 
 

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Social Gaming

Social gaming is “the haps,” as my fictional hero Dave Robicheaux likes to say.  And the Zynga Game Network is validation of that statement having just received $29 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and Institutional Venture Partners. This, I also know, because my son plays social games for hours each night with friends and acquaintance around the globe.
 
Zynga, founded by Mark Pincus the co-founder of social networking site Tribe, which gives him some social computing cred, is targeting Facebook users to propagate his games. Since many Facebook users are really just looking for something social to do and are showing signs of getting tired with the little nuisance apps, smart games make a lot of sense. Kleiner, late to the party with social computing investments, sees the value here. No dopes, they.
 
If you think social games are the haps, wait until you see what’s happening in “episodic social video games.” Kuma Games, for instance, today released with Spike TV “The Kill Point.” www.kumagames.com Talk about fresh.  
 
PS. Have you checked out Karen O’s new side band, Native Korean Rock and the Fishnets?

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I love this quote from Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company in today’s New York Times“We don’t have a sustainable company if we don’t do this.”  His quote references a pre-announcement that Ford is going to convert 3 of its North American truck and SUV assembly plants to fuel efficient car plants. From the same article written by Bill Vlasic: “The sweeping changes are the result of months of strategic discussion by Ford executives….” Months??? Strategic??? Forgive me for over-simplification, but a junior high school debate team could have made this decision.
 
Anyone with a little foresight could have made this decision. How about 3 years ago when Ford was hemorrhaging billions? Might not they have had some strategic discussions then? I applaud Mr. Mulally for this move, but wish he had made it November 5, 2006. Sixty days after he took over. 
 

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There’s a little rift going on at Google over ad revenue: One faction feels that more ads should be served while the other faction wants less. The “more” group thinks ad revenue would have been higher this last report had they their way. The “less” people feel fewer, more highly targeted ads will bring out advertisers willing to pay higher prices.  
 
I have been managing an Adwords campaign through Google for a while now and beautiful algorithm aside, I get the sense that there are some human decisions taking place there that have been shutting down my keywords. There are times when Google says a particular keyword should cost me $4.00 which I am not willing to pay. So I get shut out.  I wouldn’t be upset if I searched that keyword and there were lots of other advertisers there but sometimes there aren’t. I smell a brain. A capitalist brain. 
 
Let’s give Google Adwords back to the algorithm.
 

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There are a number of brands I love but Levi Strauss and Co. 501 button down jeans are at the top of the list. Another brand I really like is Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Levi’s ad agency. 
 
BBH and Levi Strauss are launching a worldwide campaign selling 501 jeans and the manufacturer has boldly decided to use one campaign idea (Live Unbuttoned) and one jean design around the world. What that means is that a pair of 31-34s sold in New York will match a pair sold in Tokyo stitch for stitch. Same rise, same pockets, same everything.  This is a very smart move. I don’t care how un-cool America is in other hemispheres, 501s are a brand of amazing power and allure.
 
I would love to have been party to the research that helped form the Live Unbuttoned creative idea — I can only imagine. “Unbuttoning” has changed the course of history.  If handled well, this campaign will change the course of Levi Strauss history. Good luck!

 

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